Throwback Interview: Rob Coles (Little Comets)


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Neon Nettle Chats To Rob Coles From The Little Comets

‘Hope Is Just A State Of Mind’ is out February 16th

It has been a tough month for the Newcastle trio, as lead singer Rob Coles lost his voice and had to postpone a number of live performances, to the disappointment of their fans. But the boys are back and ready for business, with their October tour resuming tonight in Preston.

Little Comets are loved for their dulcet vocals and candid lyricism that touches on the topics most artists are scared to talk about. This year has seen the release of the band’s EP trilogy, which concludes with The Sanguine EP out soon on November 3rd.

Neon Nettle caught up with Little Comets’ Rob Coles, ahead of the release of their third studio album ‘Hope Is Just A State Of Mind’, to talk about alternative careers, their EP series, getting to know their fans and what the future holds for Little Comets.

NN: Growing up in Newcastle were there any local acts that inspired you musically? Who were your favourite artists?

RC: We are very proud to be from the North East and I think the region has inspired us in many ways. It’s quite a distinct, isolated place, so we have a strong sense of regional identity. It’s a beautiful place too, which sometimes gets forgotten. I think a lot of music from the region has similar melodic inference – from Sting to Dire Straits, to Maximo Park – you can hear lots of phrases from Northumbrian folk music popping up. Also, I think our dialect is important to this as well. We sing in a particular way.

When we were discovering live music for the first time, lots of bands passed through town: we saw Oasis and Blur at the arena and it really inspired us to start a band (as young teenagers) and think about songs. Locally, a band called The Embassy were a massive influence, we used to watch them everywhere. They were such good players and it really emphasised the importance of practicing and how you could extend the scope of songwriting by being deft musically.

NN: Did you always want to be musicians? What jobs would you have worked in if the music thing hadn’t worked out?

RC: We’ve always loved playing music, but Mickey and I were certainly on a linear path of school-uni-job. At the end of uni I remember going for job interviews and feeling totally uninvolved in the process. I had no passion for the content; it was purely about money. I decided at that point that I should try and do something I love. Luckily, 10 years later we still make a living from our passion.

I think if music hadn’t worked out I would probably teach. My Mam and Dad are both teachers and that was pretty spectacular for Mickey and I, as we had so much input and time with our parents. We owe a lot of our imagination and work ethic to them. Mickey would probably have been a sound engineer of some sort, as he is frighteningly good at that, and Matt might have been a sailor. Who knows? We’ll probably have to find out if this album goes wrong 🙂

NN: The last installment of your EP trilogy, ‘The Sanguine EP,’ comes out November 3rd. What made you decide to release your new material gradually through an EP series instead of as a full album?

RC: We always have songs left over from the process of writing and recording an album. Often Mickey will leave me alone with explicit instructions to finish an aspect of a song. If I find it difficult I’ll just accidentally write a new song, as a twisted form of procrastination. For previous albums these songs have always existed, but this time, instead of consigning them to a hard-drive we thought we’d use them. They would never work on an album, but as they are offshoots of the main EP track, they sit nicely alongside.

NN: On the EP you touch on taboo topics like euthanasia and papal infallibility. What influenced your decision to speak on these topics that artists usually shy away from? Were you worried about the reception it would get?

RC: Not really, we are fortunate to have a very loyal fan-base; so even though we’d be disappointed if people didn’t like the music, we’d never let that drive the song-writing process. Our live performances are very much for people, but the writing process is entirely personal and about serving the song.

Lyric wise I think we’ve gained confidence as songwriters, just because we’ve been doing it so long. We feel comfortable about writing from a personal point of view now, as opposed to hiding behind a character, like on most of album one. We also don’t have the pressure of success to deal with. We don’t have lifestyles to sustain or a label to please and our overheads are so low that we only need to sell a modest amount of albums to be able to function as a professional band. This creates real freedom in terms of the writing and recording process.

On top of this, Mickey and I are now Dads, so our perception of the world has changed a great deal. Certain [important] issues are far more relevant now and we feel ready to discuss them. Finally, I don’t feel that I can express myself well in conversation, I ramble and stray when I have an unlimited framework in which to discuss something. Passion takes over and I lose my train of thought. With songwriting, the lyrics always come after the melody, so I have a set number of syllables in which to communicate. I can contain my views and emotion and think clearly about the language. This gets quite cathartic, as it’s a relief to be able to use songs to be able to discuss topics on my own terms, if that makes sense.

NN: What has been your favourite track to write and perform so far and why?

RC: They are all our babies, so it would be wrong to single out a song. I think invariably you always like the most recent thing you are working on, although this might just be a flimsy defence mechanism. In terms of live, it’s really exciting to try and perform a song in a way that connects with the people in the room at the time. This is the magic of playing live. It could be any song, on any specific evening that becomes special for the tiniest reason. It’s impossible to choose a favourite to perform, as every song has had its moment.

NN: What can we expect from your upcoming third studio album ‘Hope Is Just A State Of Mind’?

RC: Hopefully it’ll just be an honest representation of everything we’ve experienced and thought about over the last two years. As long as we manage that we’ll be happy. I know that might sound simplistic and vague, but it’s just how we feel.

NN: Do you feel pressure to reinvent yourself later on to remain relevant and gain longevity?

RC: Haha, erm no… I mean we are ourselves, we write songs and play them live; it is that simple. We are the same people in and outside the band, so I can honestly say the idea of reinvention is pretty alien. Our songwriting is constantly changing, but that’s just because we are inquisitive and always experiencing new things in life. To write the same album again and again would just be boring.

In terms of longevity and relevance, it’s just a total by-product. We’ll always write songs, so I suppose it’s just not important. I think to attempt a conscious reinvention would be (for us anyway) the opposite of everything we hold dear.

NN: You recently teamed up with PledgeMusic to offer fans the chance to get a personal performance in their homes or to experience a day in the studio with you. How was that experience?

RC: It’s been a great experience so far. They’ve been really flexible with us, which is perfect. It’s the first time we’ve been really able to control a release and how people can access it, which is nice for us. We really wanted to make sure that it was fair; some bands decide to charge quite large amounts of money for those experiences. We didn’t want to have that sort of exclusivity attached to items or favour those with deep pockets, so it’s good that anybody who buys an album has a chance to win that.

NN: You’ve been touring throughout October, what has been the highlight of this tour so far?

RC: Actually as I’m writing this we’ve just had to cancel quite a few dates, which is really frustrating. We hate to let people down, but I’ve come down with some sort of virus and I cannot hold a single note. It makes me feel pretty sad, as the one date we have done so far was brilliant. Also, we take care of ourselves when we are on tour, so it’s hard that it’s so inexplicable. I’m pretty gutted about it really.

NN: After the release of ‘Hope Is Just A State Of Mind’, what’s next for Little Comets?

RC: I think we’ll do a little more touring in early 2015 and then start recording the next one. Mickey and I are already talking about it.

Like this interview? Check out my interviews with similar artists like Wild Cub, Lizzie And The Yes Men and Lewisburg.


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